Stems and Branches
Components of the Calendar

Each 60- year cycle is governed by the Ten Celestial Stems, the Twelve Terrestrial Branches, the Yin and Yang of the Five Basic Elements and the Twelve Lunar Animals.

The Stems each correspond to a yin (+) or yang (-) of one of the five Elements; each of the Branches correspond to an Animal.

In the first year of a 60- year cycle, the first of the Ten Stems (jia) is paired with the first of the Twelve Branches (zi) and the yin of the first of the Five Elements (wood+) is paired with the first of the Twelve Animals (rat).  Thus you have a jia-zi, wood-rat year, or more simply, shu nian (Year of the Rat).

The second year, the second of the Ten Stems (yi) is paired with the second of the Twelve Branches (chou) and the yang of the first of the Five Elements (wood-) is paired with the second of the Twelve Animals (ox).  Thus you have a yi-chou, wood-ox year, or more simply, niu nian (Year of the Ox).

The reason for a 60- year cycle is to allow each combination to occur once.  When the combinations run their course, the next 60- year cycle begins.

Each year is ruled by a stem, branch, animal and element and governed by the pairing, which continues onward. When the next jia-zi, wood-rat year comes around, a new 60- year cycle begins, since the smallest common divisor of 10 (stems and elements) and 12 (branches and animals) is 60.

The charts below pair the Stems with their corresponding Element and the Branches with their corresponding Animal:

Ten Celestial Stems

The Five Basic Elements

shi tiangan


1 jia wood+ mu
2 yi wood- mu
3 bing fire+ huo
4 ding fire- huo
5 wu earth+ tu
6 ji earth- tu
7 geng metal+ jin
8 xin metal- jin
9 ren water+ shui
10 gui water- shui


Twelve Terrestrial Branches

The Twelve Lunar Animals
shier dizhi
shier zi
1 zi Rat shu
2 chou Ox niu
3 yin Tiger hu
4 mao Rabbit tu
5 chen Dragon long
6 si Snake she
7 wu Horse ma
8 wei Sheep yang
9 shen Monkey hou
10 you Rooster ji
11 xu Dog quan
12 hai Pig


The chart below reflects the Ten Celestial and Twelve Terrestrial year types over the course of one 60- year cycle.

1 甲子 2 乙丑 3 丙寅 4 丁卯 5 戊辰 6 己巳 7 庚午 8 辛未 9 壬申 10 癸酉
11 甲戌 12 乙亥 13 丙子 14 丁丑 15 戊寅 16 己卯 17 庚辰 18 辛巳 19 壬午 20 癸未
21 甲申 22 乙酉 23 丙戌 24 丁亥 25 戊子 26 己丑 27 庚寅 28 辛卯 29 壬辰 30 癸巳
31 甲午 32 乙未 33 丙申 34 丁酉 35 戊戌 36 己亥 37 庚子 38 辛丑 39 壬寅 40 癸卯
41 甲辰 42 乙巳 43 丙午 44 丁未 45 戊申 46 己酉 47 庚戌 48 辛亥 49 壬子 50 癸丑
51 甲寅 52 乙卯 53 丙辰 54 丁巳 55 戊午 56 己未 57 庚申 58 辛酉 59 壬戌 60 癸亥

It is quite common to see the Celestial Stem substituted for the Basic Element and the Terrestrial Branch substituted for the Lunar Animal; or they may be seen together on some charts and objects.


Features :: Chinese New Year

The 60- Year Cycle | Components of the Calendar | Chinese New Year | Zodiac Animals | Tales of the Chinese Zodiac by: Jenn Reese | Chinese New Year Pictures



Copyright DateRichard R. Wertz Creative Commons License